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Concern as Labour shadow transport secretary comments on plans for cycling, 20mph speed limits and active travel schemes

Asked if she's a cyclist Louise Haigh replied: "God no, have you been to Sheffield?"...

Cyclists, campaigners and road safety figures have expressed concern after Labour's shadow transport secretary began to outline her stance on active travel policies, 20mph speed limits and low-traffic neighbourhoods.

With the Labour Party enjoying a lead in excess of 20 percentage points in the polls, and widely expected to form the next government of the United Kingdom following the general election due before January 2025, attention for many has turned to analysing what a Labour government might look like, Cycling UK last month calling for shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh to outline "Labour's long-term plans for transport – in particular, taking into account the needs of people and families who don’t have access to a car".

And while the speeches from the party's recent conference in Liverpool were still largely quite vague – Sir Keir Starmer promising to build the "next generation" of new towns with "transport options fit for the future" – in speaking to the Independent, Haigh has begun to reveal more of her views on active travel and transport policies with implications for cycling.

Answering the question, 'does she cycle?' Haigh responded: "God no, have you been to Sheffield?"

Telling the newspaper she drives a petrol Nissan Juke, Haigh suggested Rishi Sunak had "demeaned himself" by saying the Labour Party would pursue a 'war on motorists'.

Interestingly, she went on to say 20mph speed limits and low-traffic neighbourhoods should be a matter decided by local people and argued many of the most-criticised councils who had implemented apparently unpopular schemes were Conservative local authorities.

Concluding the transport section of the interview, Haigh said there would be no Labour Party diktat that people should walk or cycle more.

Sharing the interview online, Dr Robert Davis, the Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum said "this would make Labour less responsible than [Boris] Johnson's government". Likewise, another sharer Jim Smithson suggested, with more than a touch of sarcasm, that it was "inspirational stuff from our next transport minister".

The words also attracted attention from one person who replied to Haigh's suggestion that cycling in Sheffield was not an option due to the hills by asking: "For god's sake can an e-bike manufacturer please make sure everyone in government or future government has actually tried one and found out for themselves how great they are and how cheap to run?"

Leicestershire Loves Cycling, a campaign group for cycling in the county, added that nobody wants to force everyone to walk or cycle, just that walking and cycling should be enabled to be "the most attractive options for short journeys".

The shadow transport secretary's comments have come as a disappointment to many who were hoping to see the poll-leading Labour Party take a big step away from the rhetoric of the current government, heard at last month's Conservative Party Conference as Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Mark Harper outlined a 'Plan for Motorists' to end the so-called war on motorists.

Rishi Sunak official portrait

Active travel groups despaired at the Tories' proposed measures – including curbing the introduction of 20mph speed limits, allowing drivers to use bus lanes more frequently, and barely mentioning cycling at all – the CEOs of Cycling UK, British Cycling, Bikeability Trust, Living Streets, Ramblers and Sustrans coming together to state the proposals would "rob people of choice" and force them to drive.

Cycling UK in particular was especially vocal, accusing the Conservatives of an "ill-fated attempt to win" votes with pro-motoring policies that would risk "undermining" active travel success.

A week later, to the backdrop of Labour's turn to host a conference, the cycling charity called for the party to "demonstrate bravery" by making its new homes plan active travel-focused, ditching "roads-only network" and reliance on cars.

"Labour has promised a decade of national renewal, including building 1.5 million new homes," Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at Cycling UK, said in a statement following Starmer's conference speech.

"These new neighbourhoods will also need transport options fit for the future, not the roads-only network that typifies so many recent large housing developments, leaving people with no option but to rely on cars.

"These new homes must have excellent links to public transport, be close to the services people need, and designed and planned so that walking or cycling for short journeys are obvious, safe, and attractive options for most people. Planning permission shouldn't be granted without these elements designed in.

"But we needed to hear more from Louise Haigh about Labour's long-term plans for transport – in particular, taking into account the needs of people and families who don't have access to a car.

"Keir Starmer mentioned the need for bravery, and we now need Labour to demonstrate that bravery by setting out the party's plans for a transport future that gives more people real opportunities to walk or cycle short journeys. That's a far better way to tackle the cost-of-living and climate crises, but also to massively improve our health, wealth, and well-being."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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41 comments

Avatar
srchar | 3 months ago
0 likes

More proof that it doesn't matter who you vote for.

Avatar
Steve K replied to srchar | 3 months ago
4 likes
srchar wrote:

More proof that it doesn't matter who you vote for.

It does, though.

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Ian Carey | 3 months ago
5 likes

The Labour Party: tough on hope, tough on the causes of hope.

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hawkinspeter replied to Ian Carey | 3 months ago
3 likes
Ian Carey wrote:

The Labour Party: tough on hope, tough on the causes of hope.

Weak on making Tony Blair stand trial for his war crimes

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Ian Carey wrote:

The Labour Party: tough on hope, tough on the causes of hope.

Weak on making Tony Blair stand trial for his war crimes

But intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich* and eager to shore up the failures of the private sector e.g. banks.

* Of course the quote ends "as long as they pay their taxes" - and over time Mandelson has reconsidered (how that made him look)... Also benefit of hindsight by Gordon Brown who apparently - some time after the fact - thought that bankers should have had more negative feedback.

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Pub bike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes

It would interesting to hear Gordon Brown's explanation of how giving away control of interest rate policy to an unelected body (BoE - run by a Canadian appointed by the government) was somehow proof that Labour could now be trusted on the economy.  It seems like the complete opposite.   Equally dumb of Cameron and every administration since not to immediately reverse the policy and take back control to the Treasury where it belongs.

The BoE's interest rate policy of keeping rates at a historic low for so long has caused a massive housing boom but also the cheap credit has meant millions of extra cars on the roads because most cars are bought using personal leases.  There are around 33m registered cars in the UK now.  Thus more public pressure to build more roads and keep fuel duty low from all the car owners, even less investment in public transport and cycling infrastructure, and more people driving because they're already paying monthly for a car so why would they leave their car at home and walk, cycle or take public transport to work?

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jaymack replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes

...which is why many of us resigned our membership. 

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exilegareth | 3 months ago
2 likes

Stupid shallow person in stupid shallow party says stupid shallow thing.

Not exactly news... 

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marmotte27 | 3 months ago
0 likes

Yeah well, we are physical beings in a physical world. There are, for example, hills. Well to go up you have to expend energy, which has to come from somewhere. Using, say, fossil energies comes with certain quite important downsides, once again because of this physical world thing...
So I would say, any and all politics should start from those physical bases of our existence. Fail to do so, (oh my god, there are hills where I live, or it rains sometimes...), you're not qualified!

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Secret_squirrel | 3 months ago
3 likes

Clickbait story.  One interview in a newspaper does not either a manifesto or government policy make.  Neither does an off the cuff comment in an interview.

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DonnyJohnny | 3 months ago
1 like

"Asked if she's a cyclist Louise Haigh replied: "God no, have you been to Sheffield?"..."
Louise Haigh may have been making a jocular reference to the fact that Sheffield, like Rome, is notoriously built on seven hills. Check out Blake St at 16.6° 

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Pub bike replied to DonnyJohnny | 3 months ago
4 likes

The solution to cycling up hills for ordinary folk on bikes is e-bikes.

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brooksby replied to Pub bike | 3 months ago
3 likes

Or just pedalling harder and/or in a lower gear.

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Pub bike replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
2 likes

If the average person can only produce around 100W at 60-70rpm then they'll grind to a halt on anything steep even with an 18" bottom gear and will have to get off and walk.   Give them an e-bike though...

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
4 likes

Or if their destination is not on that particular street it is often possible to take a different route, maybe longer but less steep.

Not all journeys are ideal for cycling. And I stay in Edinburgh; definitely has hills (and a mountain). But 99.9% of the time people *aren't walking or driving up the high percentage gradients either*...

Somehow though people manage to cycle more in Switzerland and Norway than than the UK.

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Dnnnnnn replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

Or just pedalling harder and/or in a lower gear.

But what about if you're a plumber delivering a fridge??

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hawkinspeter replied to Dnnnnnn | 3 months ago
2 likes
Dnnnnnn wrote:

But what about if you're a plumber delivering a fridge??

Why would you get a plumber to deliver a fridge?

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Dnnnnnn wrote:

But what about if you're a plumber delivering a fridge??

Why would you get a plumber to deliver a fridge?

One of those flashy American ones that has an ice cube maker plumbed into the mains water supply?

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

One of those flashy American ones that has an ice cube maker plumbed into the mains water supply?

Don't they just have a water reservoir that you fill up with a jug?

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Rendel Harris wrote:

One of those flashy American ones that has an ice cube maker plumbed into the mains water supply?

Don't they just have a water reservoir that you fill up with a jug?

I think that would be regarded by our cousins across the pond as very much a Third World procedure!

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Dnnnnnn wrote:

But what about if you're a plumber delivering a fridge??

Why would you get a plumber to deliver a fridge?

Because the glaziers turned you down and the the roofers were busy?

Avatar
Dnnnnnn replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
3 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
Dnnnnnn wrote:

But what about if you're a plumber delivering a fridge??

Why would you get a plumber to deliver a fridge?

Because the glaziers turned you down and the the roofers were busy?

Exactly. And the ULEZ has made the fridge delivery man sell his van. For £1.

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marmotte27 replied to Dnnnnnn | 3 months ago
2 likes

While taking his ailing grandmother the doctors and moving his oak wardrobe...

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chrisonabike replied to DonnyJohnny | 3 months ago
7 likes
DonnyJohnny wrote:

"Asked if she's a cyclist Louise Haigh replied: "God no, have you been to Sheffield?"..."
Louise Haigh may have been making a jocular reference to the fact that Sheffield, like Rome, is notoriously built on seven hills. Check out Blake St at 16.6° 

Maybe... or maybe she just means "who cycles? I've not seen many round Sheffield".

More "but we have hills / we have weather" thinking.

Or perhaps - like her boss - it's just "Nobody rock the boat".

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MagsL replied to DonnyJohnny | 3 months ago
0 likes

Having cycled up Blake st on my ebike, it is doable, but hard work. I wonder if she'd like to borrow my ebike for a bit.I could teach her about how to get around Sheffield without a car.

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dubwise | 3 months ago
6 likes

At least you know where you stand with the tories, they tell you straight to your face.  Labour stab you in the back when promising you the world.

Neither are worth voting for, mores the pity.

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hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
11 likes

I'm not filled with confidence about a Tory-lite government, but it could hardly be any worse. I hope Labour win, but with enough Green wins to make them re-think their priorities. Maybe a coalition would be the best option.

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Dnnnnnn replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
5 likes

Can't see the Greens with (m)any more than their current single MP.
Fingers crossed this is just another Labour tactic to avoid giving the Daily Mail material to use against them.

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Car Delenda Est replied to Dnnnnnn | 3 months ago
2 likes

The new seat of Bristol Central has a strong chance of going Green

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hawkinspeter replied to Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
1 like
Car Delenda Est wrote:

The new seat of Bristol Central has a strong chance of going Green

Bristol is a bit of an outlier though - we're currently Labour, but surrounded by Conservatives. It wouldn't surprise me to see a lot more support for the Greens though (despite the rantings BTL on the Bristol Post).

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